perfectly describedWhat is the New to Trading Forum?
Okay, let’s get started! If you’re a new trader, keen as mustard to show George Soros and Warren Buffett a thing or two, then the New to Trading forum is the place for you. That said, experienced traders may benefit from reminding themselves of a few basics. Within the forum, this Sticky provides a basic overview of what trading is all about. Its objective is to help set ‘newbies’ on the right path, provide them with sustenance along the way and prevent them from falling into traps and taking unnecessary detours down long cul-de-sacs. Through necessity, a certain amount of trading jargon is used. Anything not explained in the body of the text is highlighted in blue and included in the ‘Glossary of Terms’ later on in this Sticky.
TRADING IS SIMPLE . . .
First and foremost, this section of the Sticky is a reality check, intended to give aspiring traders a glimpse of what they’re getting themselves into. It’s not intended to be negative, though some people may perceive it that way. It tries to tell it like it is. If you went on a hike across the Himalayas, you’d want to go prepared and know as much as possible about the perils that may lie ahead. The boards of T2W are littered with past members who have fallen by the wayside, often because they embarked on their trading journey without due care and preparation. Although trading won’t result in serious physical injury, it does carry substantial risks which could jeopardise your savings and, possibly, your house and your relationships. This Sticky scratches the surface of some of the perils that most new traders face. Hopefully, it will help to ensure that you navigate your way through the dangers to reach the trader’s Holy Grail: to be a consistently profitable trader.
Thoughts of an easy life surrounded by fast cars and fast women, (or slow men if you’re a lady), are what attracts most people to this industry. Its doors are always wide open with a large welcome sign overhead. And it’s so simple, really simple. Opening an account with a spread betting company literally takes a few minutes and, better still, some of them even give you real money to trade with. How great is that! But hold on, think about why this is so. If you’ve seen the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, you may remember the scene in which the two brothers were on a rubbish tip, sheltering from the sun on a sweltering hot day, when they were approached by a smiling man from an orphanage, offering each of them an ice cold Coke? (Didn’t their mother ever tell them not to accept gifts from strange men?) Well, if you’re a trading ‘newbie’, then you’re at least as vulnerable as the young boys were in that movie. The financial services industry is like a big blue whale that needs to consume tons of plankton every day. No prizes for guessing who the plankton are in this analogy! Make no mistake; the odds against you making any money are longer than a very long long thing, unlike the odds against you losing it. If this Sticky helps to ensure that you don’t ‘blow up’- traders’ jargon for losing all of your capital - then it will have served its purpose.
. . . BUT IT ISN’T EASY
The mechanics of trading are simple. However, being able to consistently take money out of the market is anything but. On the face of it, trading is a near perfect business. (Note the use of the word ‘business’. Treat it as a hobby and you’ll get caned.) Anyone can do it from anywhere in the world. There is no stock to carry, no customers to find and service. The barrier to entry is low, no qualifications are required, no boss to please, no employees to pay and, beyond spreads and commissions, relatively few expenses. The cherry on the cake, if one were needed, is that if you can make money via spread betting, (discussed later on), you don’t even have to pay Income Tax! But hold on a second. Surely, if profitable trading is as ‘easy’ as some people would have you believe, wouldn’t everyone do it? To make money consistently, you’ll have to be as good as, if not better than, the professional traders working for the big city institutions. Why? Because they already have an ‘edge’ over you (also discussed later on). They have state of the art kit, pockets that are much deeper than yours, access to the best and latest information and are surrounded by colleagues with specialist skills and years of experience. Likely as not, these are the people on the other side of your trades. What makes you think that you can compete with them? Look at it this way: if you truly believed you could dispatch Andy Murray in straight sets at Wimbledon or do a lap around Silverstone faster than Lewis Hamilton, then you’d probably become a professional tennis player or F1 racing driver. Beating the top proprietary traders of Canary Wharf and Wall Street is going to be equally tough. The good news is that it can be done, but don’t kid yourself for one minute that it’s going to be easy. Between you and trading success lies a lot of hard word. As for ‘get rich quick’, forget it!
A GAME WITH FEW RULES
There are few hard and fast rules about which traders agree, for reasons which will be explored later. However, there are one or two. High on the list are traders who lack discipline and patience: they tend not to last very long. With that in mind, here’s a little test. Before opening a new account, placing your first trade and sending that ‘whatever you can do – I can do better’ e-mail to Messrs Soros and Buffett, read this entire Sticky and all the information that’s linked in it. If you lack the discipline and patience to do this, then your foray into trading is likely to be short lived and expensive.
You can study economics and the markets at university, but you can’t enroll on a course to learn how to be a successful trader, in the way that you can with other professions such as Engineering or Dentistry. Why? Well, subscribers to the ‘Big Blue Whale’ theory argue that it’s in the interests of the whale (i.e. industry professionals working for banks and other institutions) to make the entry requirements as low as possible and to provide minimal education. This ensures the maximum number of people entering the market with cash in their pockets, but with little idea about what they’re doing. In other words, they’re cannon fodder. However, there are other, less cynical explanations. Some people say it’s because trading can’t be taught. Others argue that if you develop a profitable strategy, you’d keep stumm about it, trade your socks off and make your first million. Then another million, just in case the first one was a fluke. If and when you’re done, maybe you’ll ‘do a Darvas’ (see Books, below) and write a book called: ‘How I Turned a £20 Lottery win into £2 million Trading the Markets’. The other reason why there are so few rules is that trading, by its very nature, involves two parties. There is someone on the other side of your trade. So, every time you buy in the expectation of a price rise, you buy from someone who believes that price isn’t likely to rise any higher or that it’s likely to fall. Self evidently, both parties can’t be right. If there were rules that governed trading in the way that there are rules that govern engineering and dentistry then, broadly speaking, all market participants would want to buy and sell at the same time. That’s no good; prospective buyers need and want sellers – and vice versa. The markets can only function effectively when two people with opposite views agree on a price and trade. That is the common denominator that unites all traded instruments in all markets. So, different opinions, ideas and beliefs not only abound, but are necessary for the markets to function effectively. No two traders are the same. For the new trader, this makes the tricky task of knowing where to start and who to trust harder still. Fear not, by the end of this Sticky, the fog will have lifted. Well, some of it will at least!
FIVE TRADING ATTRIBUTES
An obvious starting point is to look at the skills and attributes that will help you in your quest. You may already have some, others you will need to develop. In just about every profession you can think of, including engineering and dentistry mentioned above, having above average intelligence is usually an advantage. The same applies to other ‘conventional’ attributes such as being persistent, industrious and determined. Whilst all these traits may be useful for the aspiring trader, none of them will guarantee success. The market doesn’t care that you have a double first from Cambridge, just as it doesn’t care that the person on the other side of your trade is an East End barrow boy without a single GCSE to their name. Attributes that are good for trading vary slightly, depending upon the type of trader you want to be. If you’re a 'scalper', trading many times a day for small moves, you need unwavering concentration, a quick mind and fast reactions. Good scalpers tend to be good at fast paced computer games. If you’re slow and methodical in your approach, then a longer term strategy is likely to suit you better. Here are some typical attributes found in most successful traders, be they scalpers, swing traders or position traders.
1. Self Discipline
It’s been mentioned already, but self discipline is so important that it not only warrants being mentioned again, it’s No.1 on the list. If trading is ever to be anything other than a bit of fun, then it’s necessary to approach it as one would any other type of business. Most hobbies, e.g. sports, arts and crafts etc. cost us money. Relatively few people cover their costs or make any money from their hobbies. And, as hobbies go, for some people, trading proves to be a very expensive one indeed. So it’s best to take it seriously from the start. Central to this is having a Trading Plan that sets out when and where you enter and exit your trades. (See the Articles section below for a link to a Trading Plan Template.) Trading is a bit like driving in that we have predetermined actions for every event that occurs in our journey. Before we even set off, we know that we’ll stop at the T junction at the end of the road, indicate, look in all directions and only pull out when it’s safe to do so. As drivers, we all have a rigid plan as to how we will behave and what we will do in all conceivable situations. We all take a test to prove that we not only understand the plan, but that we can also apply it whilst driving. Our trading plan needs to be equally well thought out and executed. If we don’t do this and ignore our own rules, the impact on our equity is likely to be as serious as the impact on our car (and possibly our health) if we ignore the rules laid down in the Highway Code.
2. Keeping Your Emotions in Check
If you’re a discretionary trader, it’s vital that you make trades for rational reasons and not gut instinct. It’s easy to confuse the two. If you look at your past trades and you can’t easily and quickly pinpoint the precise reasons for taking them then, almost certainly, they were ‘shoot from the hip’ gut instinct type trades (aka gambling). The market enticed you to trade emotively through fear and greed, rather than calmly and rationally according to a predefined trading plan. Chances are, you’ve done this AND made money; it’s very common amongst new traders. Unfortunately, it’s a dangerous habit to get into and one that’s often tough to break. If one were to equate easy profits with drugs and the market with dealers, it’s akin to dope pushers handing out free Acapulco Gold to kids at the school gates. (This is not to be confused with Nescafe Gold which, although very different, is almost as expensive!) Good traders do not allow their emotions to be manipulated by the market and always trade according to a pre-determined trading plan. In the long run, if you trade purely with your emotions you will lose your money – guaranteed.
3. Ego & Humility
The market is always right. It is in control, not you. Good traders know this and accept it. The downfall of many traders comes when they believe they have a handle on the market and they think they know what it will do next. If you are trading for the satisfaction of being proved right, then be afraid, be very afraid. You might be a super trader in all other respects but, if your ego gets the better of you, likely as not you’ll blow up eventually. The human ego is to traders what Kryptonite is to Superman.
4. Beware of Opinion – Especially Your Own
Good traders not only exclude their emotions when trading, but their opinions as well. There’s a pro’ day trader of U.S. equities and long standing member of T2W called ‘Mr. Charts’ who frequently imparts this advice: “I ignore opinions about the markets, including my own. Of course I’ve got an opinion, but I don’t take any notice of it. I trade what actually happens, not what I think should happen. The market doesn’t care what people think or expect, it does what it does under the pressure of supply and demand”. This is a difficult and counter-intuitive skill to master. Throughout much of 2009, the markets soared and every technical and fundamental indicator suggested it looked overcooked. Day after day traders closed their longs and/or initiated short positions, based on their opinion that the market would reverse, or at least retrace, some of its gains. They let their opinion dictate their trades, rather than rational analysis of what the market was actually doing.
5. Do Your Own Research
This is something you’ll read a lot if you spend much time on forums like T2W. The need to question everything, test everything and do your own research surprises a lot of novice traders. Not unreasonably, they join sites like this one in order to learn from others so that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. As has been discussed already, trading has its own unique characteristics and is unlike most other human endeavors. To use a scientific analogy, imagine you were an inventor back in Thomas Edison’s day around the time he did his famous light bulb experiments. If you had an idea for an experiment, but found out that Edison had already conducted the same experiment and it had failed, you probably wouldn’t bother to repeat it on the off chance that it would magically work for you. Unfortunately, this logic cannot be applied to the markets. In trading, nothing works for everybody and everything works for somebody. Only as a result of your own effort and research will you discover the magic combination of markets, timeframes and strategies that work for you.
FIVE TRADING PRECEPTS
Everything discussed so far begs an obvious question. If there are so few rules, and if what works for one trader may not work for the next, how does each trader find what will work for them? The bad news is that no one can answer this for you; it is something you have to discover for yourself. It takes a lot of time and effort, which is why anyone focused on get rich quick schemes will lose interest – or their money – and sometimes both. On a positive note, there are certain basic precepts about which most traders (but not all) agree. These are outlined below. (Remember, don’t accept these as given, question them, test their robustness and decide for yourself whether or not they are valid for YOU!) Once you’ve done that, your mission is to use the precepts (tools) and invest time and effort (materials) and build yourself a trading strategy. The good news is that, at this stage, little or no money is required. Ultimately of course, you’ll want to trade your strategy with real money to discover if it lives up to your hopes and expectations.
Very occasionally on T2W (and elsewhere) a member will claim to be able to predict the future with consistent accuracy. Most people can’t, including successful, consistently profitable traders. However, their analysis of the market indicates the probability of a move up or down. This leads to the first trading precept . . .
1. Trading is a numbers game, based on probability
Being consistently profitable in your chosen timeframe is the holy grail of trading. Just as Roger Federer will spend hours on the practice courts and study the strengths and weaknesses of his opponents, the wannabe trader will have to study the markets to discover the optimum point to enter and exit their trades. The balance of probabilities must be such that any given trade is more likely to produce a profit than it is a loss. Just as Federer can’t be certain that he will win every game or set that he plays, a trader can’t be sure that every trade will be a profitable one. However, in the same way that the tennis ace has a knack of repeatedly getting his hands on the tournament trophy, the successful trader comes out ahead over time. The first step towards achieving this happy state of affairs is to understand the second precept . . .
2. You don’t have to predict the future to make money trading!
This comes as both a huge surprise and an even bigger relief to many new traders. A seemingly insurmountable obstacle is removed. Yippee! You just have to have the balance of probabilities in your favour or, to use trader’s jargon, a ‘positive expectancy’. In a fair coin toss, the probability of flipping heads or tails is 50/50. If you won £10.00 for heads and lost £5.00 for tails, you’d be on to a winner. You might get 5 or even 10 consecutive tails in a row and suffer what traders refer to as a 'drawdown' of £25.00 or £50.00 on your account. However, over time, you know you will recoup the loss and make a profit. You’ll have a positive expectancy which is what separates consistently profitable traders from ‘shoot from the hip’ gamblers. To get a positive expectancy, you’ll need an understanding of the third precept . . .
3. Risk & Money Management
Risk management focuses on the steps required to minimise losses, while money management focuses on the steps required to maximise gains. Central to both these objectives are two simple ratios which, between them, enable traders to create a positive expectancy. They are:
A) The Success Ratio. Out of any given sample, what is the total number of winning trades relative to the total number of losing trades? This is called the success ratio or win:loss ratio.
B) The Profit Ratio. This is the average £’s won on the winning trades, relative to the average £’s lost on the losing trades. This is called the profit ratio and is sometimes referred to as the ‘Sharpe Ratio’, although this is technically incorrect.
The important thing to note about the success ratio is that it is not necessary to have more than 50% winning trades to have a profitable trading strategy. Indeed, some of the biggest names in the industry utilise strategies that are profitable only 30% - 40% of the time. Let’s revisit the fair coin toss mentioned earlier, in which heads wins £10.00 and tails loses £5.00. You can see from this example that you would only need to have 33% of the coin tosses coming up heads to break even (Three coin tosses: 1 x heads = +£10.00 and 2 x tails @ -£5.00 each = -£10.00). In a fair coin toss, the success ratio is known to be 50/50 or 1:1. In this example, the profit ratio is 2:1. Over time, every coin toss has a positive expectancy of a +£2.50 gain. This is covered in detail in the Article linked below entitled: ‘How to Win at the Futures Trading Game’.
The topic of risk and money management is absolutely vital to your success or failure as a trader and is covered in greater depth in this Sticky: Essentials Of 'Risk & Money Management' Ignore it at your peril!
Now, you may be starting to get excited and thinking to yourself that none of this sounds very difficult. Indeed, the principles are fairly simple. However, as you will soon discover, it’s deceptively tricky to put into practice in order to generate consistent returns. To help you achieve a positive expectancy, you’ll need the forth precept . . .
4. A trading ‘edge’
In the words of ‘TWI’, a long standing T2W member and hedge fund manager, your trading edge is “anything that removes the random nature of throwing darts at the FT markets page”. Many threads in the forums found in the ‘Start Here’ category focus on developing a trading edge. It might be something that sounds very simple, such as cutting losing trades early and letting profitable trades run, or determining when a fresh trend is underway and then riding the trend. These ideas sound simple enough but, for most traders, they’re devilishly difficult to put into practice. Or, if you’re that graduate from Cambridge mentioned earlier with a double first in maths and economics, your edge might be the ability to develop highly sophisticated computer algorithms. Needless to say, developing your edge is the really tricky bit. One way to develop an edge is to try to understand the forces at play in the fifth precept . . .
5. Supply & Demand
The principle of supply and demand is as old as the hills and is, arguably, the only reason why prices fluctuate. The larger the imbalance between the two, the bigger and faster the price move. This can occur for any number of reasons. Broadly speaking, imbalances are attributed to fundamental and technical drivers. Briefly, fundamental analysis is favoured by investors and includes things like earnings statements, government reports and news. For example, the severe cold weather over Christmas 2009 in the UK was widely predicted by the Meteorological Office. There will have been market speculators who used this information to buy up shares in companies that manufacture toboggans, ear muffs and woolly hats etc. in the expectation that their sales would go through the roof. The logic is that the surge in demand for these products and the increased revenue that they generate would, in theory, be reflected in higher share prices. By contrast, traders tend to gravitate towards technical analysis (commonly referred to as ‘TA’) for signs of an imbalance in supply and demand and look for clues of this on a price chart. An example of this can be seen on the chart of the internet giant, Google (ticker/symbol: GOOG), below.
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The first chart is merely to provide some context; the second is an enlargement of the red box. We can see that traders and investors bought the stock in early September 2009 at A. We know this because the supply and demand dynamic caused the price to rise steadily before it faltered at B. There could be any number of reasons as to why this happened. One of them could be that large round numbers tend to act as psychological barriers at which traders and investors take action. This can result in a major price reversal or a temporary retreat, referred to by traders as a ‘pullback’. Anyone who bought GOOG near A is sitting on an unrealised profit of around US$40.00 per share by the time it reaches the critical $500 price level at B. On the 22nd Sept, price breaches the $500 mark. Just. The next day, on the 23rd Sept’, it surges higher, but then topples down to close back below the $500 mark. This selling pressure will have unnerved some of the longs from A, causing them to bail out and take their profit. Day traders may also note this and sniff an opportunity to sell GOOG short, anticipating a move to the downside. Between the longs bailing out and short sellers coming in, the supply and demand dynamic is reversed, albeit temporarily, and it’s the bears who have the upper hand. As it happens, at C, the bulls support the stock and regain control to make a second assault on the $500 level. On the 7th Oct’, twelve trading days after price first breached the $500 mark, price powered through this key resistance level on huge volume. Of course, all of this is easy to see with the benefit of hindsight. Trading it in real time with real money as the story unfolds is a tad harder!
The five precepts outlined above are by no means comprehensive and are intended merely as a starting point for new traders who aren’t too sure where to begin. Whatever your approach, if you are able to determine that demand for your traded instrument is large and that supply is limited, then the probability of a price rise is good. You may have found your trading ‘edge’, or part of one at least. However, prices very rarely ever move in a straight line and, when they do, they don’t do it for very long. This means that your analysis of the market – be it technically based or fundamentally based, may be correct, but you can still end up with a losing trade unless you time your entry very well and/or have a sufficiently wide stop loss to allow for ‘wiggle room’. Getting this combination right and then exiting your winning trades for a gain that is larger than the loss on losing trades is all down to your risk and money management strategy. If, for example, your results indicate a success ratio is 1:1 and a profit ratio of 2:1, then you’ll have a positive expectancy and will be well on the way towards the trading Holy Grail of consistent profitability. It won’t be easy, but it is possible. Good luck!
SORTING THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF ON T2W
The market environment is very liquid and changes constantly and, as has been said already, has few rules. So, you register here on T2W in the hope of being shown ‘the way’, only to be told that there is no way, no holy grail and no fast track to an easy life. On top of that, you can’t tell fact from fiction, or who’s a seasoned pro’ from a teenager with attitude - yet to sit their GCSE’s (and yes, you’ll come across both here on T2W). And we haven’t even got to the snake oil salesman yet. In the slipstream of the big blue whale are loads of sharks with promises of untold riches in return for little or no work. Sorting out this lot from the start isn’t easy. But it is possible and it will make your time spent on sites like T2W more rewarding. But how? The simple answer is to assume nothing and question everything. Nothing is exempt, including the ideas and advice in this Sticky. If you must assume anything at all, assume nothing works and that all information (from whatever source) is incorrect unless and until you’ve proved its validity to your complete satisfaction. Remember, if the routine ideas that are trotted out day after day in books and on the internet worked for everyone, then we’d all be rich. There is a lot to be said for evaluating how most other traders work and then resolving to do something different. When reading posts on here (and elsewhere), learn to separate fact from opinion. Facts are usually easily verified, opinions are not. Here are some examples of facts and opinions and how you can differentiate between the two:
Q. ‘What are the market hours for the FTSE 100 Index?’
The answer to this question is a verifiable fact. It’s black and white, there’s no grey area. Whoever answers this question will either be right or wrong.
Q. ‘Have I drawn this trendline correctly on my chart?’
Given the same chart, different traders will draw trendlines in different places. Consequently, members will reply with their opinion about whether it’s drawn correctly or not.
Q. ‘Have I drawn this trendline correctly on my chart in accordance with conventional Dow Theory?’ The question is tighter and more likely to result in a yes or no answer, which may or may not be correct. Either way, if the answer is important to you, you can cross check it with another source.
Q. ‘How far from my entry should I place my stop loss on my trades?’
The replies to this are all opinion, regardless of who they’re from. You could get a poorly worded, hastily written reply from a member who manages a multimillion dollar hedge fund. (Unlikely, but possible.) The very well written post after that may be from a complete novice. Newbie’s tend not to know the tell-tale signs which enable more experienced traders to separate the pro’ from the novice. And the so called pro’ may in fact just be someone who talks a good talk but can’t trade for toffee – and never has. More importantly, the reply from the novice may be more appropriate to you and your style of trading than the approach of the professional. How come? Well, suppose you decide to take kite surfing lessons. Would you want and expect to learn on a beginner’s kite or a killer beast used by adrenaline junkies for maximum speed and power? Advanced tools in the hands of novices are usually a recipe for disaster. The point is that lots of newbie’s want to distinguish the pro’s from the novices in the belief that if they only ever listen to the pro’s and ignore the novices – they’ll lick the markets in no time. The idea that a novice trader never posts anything of any value is as ludicrous as the idea that pearls of wisdom cascade in a continuous stream from the mouths of the pro’s. (No offense to any pro' traders reading this!)
Your life on T2W (and elsewhere) will be more rewarding and far less frustrating by doing the following: try to ignore the source of the message (post author) and focus on the message itself (post content). There are lots of excellent and worthwhile posts that have been written by people who have subsequently been banned. This may sound like an anomaly but, for better or worse, knowledgeable and experienced traders are as prone to breaching the T2W Site Guidelines as anyone else. Equally, there are some long standing members who never put a foot wrong, exhibit a high post count and 'Legendary Member' status, but rarely contribute anything of real trading value. So, please remember, it’s the message that matters, not the status of the messenger, be they ‘Legendary Member’, ‘Banned’ or somewhere in between. Can you cross check the ideas presented to validate them to your complete satisfaction? Are they fact or opinion? If they’re the latter, do they concur or conflict with other views you have formulated about the markets? This principle doesn’t just apply to T2W, but to anything on the web, books and most other resources too.
In amongst the broad spectrum of ideas and often conflicting opinions about the markets, there are also those who claim to cut to the chase and to tell you exactly what you really need to know in order to make money – for a fee! Vendors are a magnet for new traders and, as a group; they provoke strong reactions from T2W members, some of which are very damning indeed. ‘Those that can’t trade - teach’ is the common refrain. Without doubt, it’s a highly contentious subject and a complex one at that.
The idea that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to the markets; no simple, easy to understand and apply strategy that’s consistently profitable for everyone who uses it, will not be questioned by good vendors. By contrast, ‘snake oil’ salesmen and women peddling the Holy Grail of easy money for little or no work will dispute it. As mentioned near the start of this Sticky, there aren’t any ‘How To Trade’ type university courses in the way that there are courses in Engineering or Dentistry. If such a course did exist, and the graduates went on to become successful traders in the way that most graduates of Dentistry go on to become successful dentists, then prospective students would beg, borrow, steal or even sell their own body parts in order to pay for the tuition fees. The revenue from this one course alone would enable universities to subsidise all their other courses. It’s only in the private sector that you’ll find people claiming to do for prospective traders what universities aim to do for prospective engineers and dentists. Most of these vendors are unregulated (unless they’re offering specific investment recommendations or advice) and some of them utilise very slick marketing and flashy websites in order to attract their custom. There are some good ones, but they can be difficult to spot amongst all the sharks. Suffice it to say, if you are thinking seriously of spending significant sums of money with any trading tutor, coach or mentor, you would be well advised to exercise extreme caution and do extensive research first. And the old adage ‘caveat emptor’ – let the buyer beware - should always be in the forefront of your mind.
Besides the obvious display ads, there are quite a few T2W members who are also vendors and can be identified as such by the cash register icon beneath their post count. It looks like this (circled in red):
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Please note that the icon merely identifies them as vendors, it’s NOT an endorsement of their product or service. T2W does not have the resources to check them out and, as the site is free to join, they could be rogue vendors. Regardless of whether you're considering buying something from a vendor on T2W or elsewhere, you would be wise to conduct due diligence. Start by checking out these two FAQs:
How Can I Distinguish Between Scams and Reputable Vendors?
Can You Recommend a Mentor, Coach or Trading Course?
Hopefully, the ideas above will serve as a useful primer for your journey towards consistent profitability. It’s not a race, there’s no finish line and there are no time restrictions. The markets will still be here next week, next year and beyond. So, take your time and, above all, remember that in the great scheme of things, trading isn’t that important. Don’t let trading take over your life at the expense of family and friends. The Fate of a Trader is a thread started by ‘trader_dante’, one of T2W’s most celebrated members, who has paid a high price for his obsession with the markets. Perhaps the only opinions that you need not question and accept at face value are those posted by him and other members in the above thread. In the words of ‘Market Wizard’, in the fifth post to the thread: “Once the market gets its claws into you, it is very difficult to set yourself free.”
Tips & Tools
In 'I'm New To TRADING - Where Do I Start?' you will - hopefully - have gained some insight as to what trading is all about. In this thread we will drill down further and provide specific tips and tools to set you on your way.
HOW DO I TRADE?
In practical terms, you need a trading platform to enable you to buy and sell the ‘instrument’ you wish to trade. (Instrument is a generic term and is applied to any share, index or commodity etc. that is traded on the open market.) This is usually supplied by your broker, of which there are many different types, offering different trading vehicles. By far the most common trading vehicle for new traders is Spread Betting, followed by Contracts for Difference (CFD's), Options and Futures. Each has advantages and disadvantages, depending on your capital, your experience and knowledge of the industry. You can find out more about all of these trading vehicles by clicking on them to take you to the relevant forum.
You’ll then need to select an instrument to trade – or instruments plural – of which there’s a huge variety. To start with, stick with one market, e.g. indices, stocks or forex. Mixing and matching is best left to those with experience!
WHAT DO I NEED TO GET STARTED?
Typically, you'll need a fairly good PC - a lot of Spread Betting (SB) companies and certainly direct market access (DMA) brokers will recommend a dual core processor e.g. Pentium or AMD, 2Gb RAM, Windows XP (or later) and probably a fairly decent graphics capability - especially if you want to have a dual monitor configuration. It can be done with less than the above, of course, but newer and faster is almost always better.
You will also need either a charting package, some form of data supplier (often but not always supplied with the charting package), and of course an account with a broker of some sort.
On the broker note, most people recommend that a margin account is better than a credit account. The reason behind this is that you should only trade with money you can afford to lose. When you start out, it’s more than likely that you will have some losses, and it’s best not to be in a situation in which your broker is in a position to continue lending you money - you don’t want to let it get out of control! Margin accounts simply stop operating once your capital falls below a certain level, and it’s up to you to fund it again. Hence, you are in control, not your broker.
WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?
What follows is adapted from a post by a long standing T2W member called firewalker99, in the FAQ entitled: ‘How Do I Start Trading?’ . . .
Before you start out, you need to:
1) Determine what you want out of trading: are you doing it for beer money or as a career to earn a full time living?
2) Determine a suitable timeframe for your trading style. Broadly speaking, traders fall into three categories: day traders – opening and closing all trades intraday, swing traders – holding trades for 1 – 5 days and position traders – holding trades for weeks at a time.
3) Determine your short and long term goals. (Small consistent profits or large gains accompanied with equally large drawdowns?)
4) Analyze yourself (SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.) The point here is that many newbies are attracted to very short term day trading. However, not many of them are really very suited to it. Be brutally honest with yourself. If you’re a balding middle aged man with a pot belly, in spite of what you might wish or believe, chances are that you don’t look good on a dance floor. In fact, chances are that women don’t fancy you, if anything they pity you. You can figure out the analogy with the market – and why you have to be so brutally honest with yourself – by yourself! Keep in mind that the market won’t show you any pity at all; it will fleece you for every penny.
Next, you need to know what kind of trading suits you best:
5) A mechanical or discretionary approach (This topic is expanded on in the ‘Essentials Of 'Forex Strategies & Systems' Sticky)
6) Using fundamental or technical analysis of the markets – or a combination of the two? If the latter, will you focus on price, volume, price patterns, indicators (e.g. Bollinger Bands), pivot points, candlestick analysis or a combination of any of the above?
After you determine that, you need to:
7) Formulate a hypothesis. An example would be that price typically moves up X number of points if it breaches yesterday’s high. To get some ideas about what other traders do on this front, check out the threads in the ‘Best Threads’ Stickies, pinned to the top of each forum index.
8) Refine the hypothesis into a strategy to take advantage of what you think you've found. To use trader’s jargon – this is called a 'set up'.
9) Backtest and paper trade the hypothesis (set up). Does the set up appear a sufficient number of times in the backtest to produce enough trades? Does price move sufficiently far in your favour to produce enough profit to meet your objectives in 1-3, above?
10) Define the tactics you are going to employ to enter and exit the trade. This requires an entry ‘trigger’ and a point to exit the trade with a loss if it goes against you or, hopefully, with a profit if it goes in your favour. Remember, you’ll always have losing trades as well as wining ones. But this is to be expected and doesn’t matter at all, so long as you have a ‘positive expectancy’. (If you don’t know what this is, read post #2 of this Sticky entitled: ‘What is the First Steps Forum?’)
11) Define the idea and the specifics surrounding it. In other words, pan out. Does the set up and entry trigger only appear at a certain time of day or in conjunction with a news release? Does the success ratio improve if the higher timeframes are trending in the same direction as the proposed trade etc.?
12) Go back to 9 and go through the process again to see what the performance of your system is. In other words, what is your win:loss ratio, profit ratio, maximum consecutive losses, maximum drawdown, average % gain per week / month etc.
After you have written down your trading plan, you can:
13) Switch to a live account trading small size (i.e. with very small amounts of money)
14) Analyze yourself and your ability to follow the trading plan . . . This is an area where many traders come unstuck because they’ve not done a thorough self assessment (SWOT analysis) as outlined in 4) above. It often comes down to a lack of discipline to only take the trades specified in your trading plan. By breaking your own rules, you’re undoing all the constructive work you’ve done so far. It will skew your results which will make analysis of them difficult because you won’t know if your profits or, more likely your losses, are the result of trades executed in accordance with your plan or AWOL trades.
15) Make your first million. Then your second million just in case the first was a fluke and then write the book!
The next section discusses some popular ways of trading the markets, regardless of the instrument(s) you trade. For example, suppose you decide to trade UK shares. There are lots of trading vehicles that allow you to trade them in one form or another, including: Spread Betting, Contracts for Difference (CFDs), Options, Warrants, Single Stock Futures, Direct Market Access and conventional share dealing. The first five in the list above are known as derivatives, as you are not trading the stock itself but, rather, a financial product based on – and ‘derived’ from – the underlying share. Discussed next will be some of the most common methods.
WHAT IS SPREAD BETTING?
Spreadbets are the simplest form of trading. The most commonly traded spreadbets are probably those relating to the major market indices - in the UK, this is of course the FTSE100. Other major American indices are the Standard and Poors 500 (S&P 500), the Dow Jones and the Nasdaq. Popular European indices include the German DAX and the French CAC.
Spreadbets are not limited to indices by any stretch of the imagination. They can also be applied to stocks, sports - you name it, you can bet on it. However they tend to be less popular for stocks because there are better ways to trade stocks - using a DMA broker, for example. Stocks tend to have a wide spread, whereas, indices tend to be much narrower on account of their popularity, forcing Spread Betting companies to maintain a competitive advantage by offering ever tighter spreads.
So, how does a spreadbet work? Well, at the time of writing, the Dow Jones, for example, is trading around 10,100. A typical spreadbet company would offer a spread of, say 5 points: 10143-10148, (i.e. bid 10143 and offer 10148). These are the prices THEY sell to you and buy from you – not the other way around, unfortunately! Essentially, all spreads comprise two prices, you will buy at the HIGHER price and sell at the LOWER price.
How this works is simple. If you think the market will rise, you ‘buy’ the market, or go ‘long’. Suppose you’re long the Dow, once the bid price rises above the 10148 level, you will begin to make money. Likewise, if you think the index will fall, you ‘sell’ the market or go ‘short’ and, once the offer falls below the 10143 level, you will start to make money.
The downside, of course, is the spread. Let’s say you’re trading at £2 per point, so that for every point the index moves, you make or lose £2. Using the above 5 point spread as an example, you will lose £10 if you close your position at exactly the same price as you opened it. In other words, the Dow has to move up 5 points (assuming you’re long) simply in order to break even. If it moves up 6 points, and you close out the trade, you’ll only make a £2 profit for your trouble. But of course if you get it right, and the market races up 20 points, you'll be up £30. (20 x £2 = £40. Less the spread 5 x £2 = -£10.)
This is how a ‘spread’ works on any instrument. The only thing that differs from broker to broker and stock to stock is the spread itself. Some brokers might offer a 4 point spread on the Daily Dow, others might offer a 6 point spread. Some brokers offer very competitive spreads on some instruments and less competitive ones on others. The trick is to find the right broker for you.
There is no tax to pay on spreadbets, because under current UK tax legislation, they are classed as gambling and therefore exempt from Income tax and CGT.
WHAT ARE OPTIONS?
To view the T2W Guide to Options, click the link.
WHAT ARE FUTURES?
Futures are a commonly used way of profiting from moves in the markets, normally traded by those who have some degree of experience. They are not really suitable for beginners.
A ‘future’ is a contract which contains an agreement to buy or sell a specific amount of a commodity (for example - corn, crude oil, silver) or a financial instrument (for example, emini S&P500, Eurodollar, US T-bonds) at a particular price on a particular date. It obligates the buyer to purchase and the seller to sell, unless the contract is offset before settlement date (which it is, 99% of the time!). They are sometimes called ‘commodities’, but with the introduction of financial futures in addition to physical commodities, futures is the preferred term nowadays.
The advantage of futures over, say, a spreadbet, is that the spread is often only one point. In the above example for the spreadbet, where the Dow is at 10143-10148, a futures contract would be 10145-10146. However, there is always a commission to pay to your broker, and you will have to pay tax on any profits.
WHAT ARE CFD'S?
Many people liken CFDs to trading shares on margin - buying shares and only using a small deposit which is typically between 10% - 20%. In fact, it is an agreement between two parties agreeing to settle at the close of the contract, the difference between the opening price and closing price of the contract - multiplied by the number of shares specified in the contract.
For example, in June you might agree to buy 5000 shares of ABC Limited at, say £6.00 (total value of £30,000). You lodge a 10% margin deposit of £3,000. In September the price of ABC Limited shares moves to £8.00, and you decide to sell at this price. You receive a gross profit of £10,000 (£40,000 less £30,000) and your deposit is returned.
Using CFDs you can control up to 10 times the stock compared with an outright purchase. This higher gearing creates greater profits assuming you correctly anticipate movements in price, but the risk of loss also increases by the same amount should the price move against you.
Again, one of the attractions of CFD's is that because no physical transaction takes place there is no stamp duty payable under current UK legislation, although this of course can change at any time.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Getting up to speed with trading jargon is not difficult. The glossary listed here covers the basic terms used in this Sticky and a few more for good measure. If you come across a term whilst surfing the forums that you’re unfamiliar with, copy and paste it into T2W’s very own Traderpedia search facility. In the unlikely event that that doesn’t produce any results, try doing the same thing on Investopedia. If you draw a blank there as well, you can ask for an explanation on forum, safe in the knowledge that the term used isn’t an everyday one and you won’t be making a fool of yourself!
A military acronym which stands for ‘Absent Without Official Leave’. When applied to trading, it usually refers to trades that either negate the rules of a trading plan or fail to comply with them sufficiently to warrant taking the trade in the first place.
This involves looking to see how a trading strategy would have performed in the past using historical data.
Someone who believes the market (or an individual instrument) is likely to fall in value.
The bid price is the price at which one can SELL a given size of an instrument at a given point in time, i.e. the bid is a price at which a buyer is willing to buy a security from you. This is nearly always less than the Offer or 'Ask' price
A person or firm which executes transactions on behalf of customers, generally for a commission.
The exact opposite of a bear. A bullish market is a rising market and bullish news is expected to result in the market or individual instrument to increase in value.
The leading French stock index.
Candlesticks originate from Japan and, like price bars, they show the open, high, low and close of price. The body or ‘candle’ is either filled white (or green) indicating a price rise, or filled black (or red) indicating a price fall.
Traders who use Technical Analysis (TA) require price charts of the instruments they trade. There are a huge variety of charting packages available, ranging from basic free end of day charts (EoD), which are often sufficient for swing traders, to real time ‘tick’ data charts required by day traders, which can cost upwards of US$100 per month.
A transaction fee charged to a trader or investor when dealing through an intermediary. Commission is the charge a financial intermediary charges to execute a transaction on a customer's behalf. The most commonly thought of type of commission is that of a broker in the stock or other markets. Equity, option, and futures generally all incur commissions. A standard commission is one charged per transaction. In that case, the trader pays both to buy and sell when making a trade. A ‘round-turn’ commission is one which the broker only charges one fee when a position is closed out.
This type of account does not require you to deposit funds with your broker in order to trade, other than perhaps a small opening balance. It is not recommended that new traders open credit accounts as a large debt could accumulate very quickly!
Essentially, ‘data’ refers to the prices of instruments and the number of them traded, e.g. shares or contracts. If you want, you can get your market data from one supplier and your charting software from someone else. Some people don’t utilise TA at all to trade, so they only require market data and a trading platform.
The German stock index.
For more information on the Dax, click here.
Direct Market Access (DMA)
Direct Access or Direct Market Access (DMA). DA allows a trader to trade directly with another trader, for example, a market maker on NASDAQ, or a ‘specialist’ on the floor of an exchange without broker interference. DA is the preferred trading system for day traders, where success is, in part, dependent upon speed of execution.
This type of trader has complete control over all the decisions about when and where to enter and exit their trades. Benefits are maximum flexibility, while drawbacks are that as humans; we are emotional beings that are prone to making poor decisions motivated by fear and greed.
A common abbreviation for the Dow Jones Industrial Average - one of the major US indices, comprising 30 blue chip stocks in the USA. Also known as DJIA, US30 or Dow30. Futures traders refer to the e-mini Dow as ‘YM’.
For more information on the Dow, click here.
The difference in the equity in one’s trading account today, relative to a previous high. E.g. if one has $900 in one’s account today but, at some point in the past, it had had $1,000 in it, then the account has a drawdown of $100.
Elliot Wave Theory
A well known and fairly commonly used method of anticipating the way the market moves. Further information on Elliot is available here.
An electronically traded futures contract (the ‘e’ in e-mini) that represents a portion of the normal full sized futures contracs (the ‘mini’ in e-mini). E-mini contracts are available on a wide range of indices such as the Nasdaq 100, S&P 500, S&P MidCap 400 and Russell 2000. For more information about e-minis, click here.
A Dow Jones index of the top European stocks.
For more information on Eurostoxx, click here.
A marketplace in which securities, commodities, derivatives and other financial instruments are traded. The core function of an exchange - such as a stock exchange - is to ensure fair and orderly trading, as well as efficient dissemination of price information for any securities trading on that exchange. Exchanges give companies, governments and other groups a platform to sell securities to the investing public. An exchange may be a physical location where traders meet to conduct business or an electronic platform.
A method of determining likely turning points within the market based on a series of Fibonacci numbers. For some basic details, click here.
A chart pattern, useful for determining either continuation or reversal of price.
The index of the UK’s top 100 companies. When traders refer to the FTSE, they are normally talking about the FTSE100 Index, but there are other FTSE indices also – FTSE250, FTSE350, FTSE All-Share etc
For more information on the FTSE, click here.
The Hong Kong index. Referred to by futures traders as either HSI or MHI, depending on the size of the contract.
For more information on the Hang Seng, click here.
Head & Shoulders (H&S)
Another chart pattern. H&S can signify either a market top or bottom, or a continuation of the current price action, depending upon where it occurs.
The practice of offsetting the price risk inherent in any cash market position by taking an equal but opposite position in the futures market. Hedgers use the futures markets to protect their businesses from adverse price changes. E.g. airlines will do this to protect themselves from future increases in the cost of fuel.
This has nothing to do with hedging as described above. Hedge funds are unregulated and cater for private investors with a high net worth. The fund manager(s) use advanced investment strategies such as leveraged, long, short and derivative positions in both domestic and international markets with the goal of generating high returns.
Customisable displays on a chart that indicate where possible turning points may occur within the market. They can be based on price action, momentum and moving average prices, amongst others.
If you are ‘long’ the market, it means that you have bought an instrument in the expectation that it will rise in value so that you can sell it later on for a profit.
This account type is where the brokerage firm lends you money based on a multiple of the amount you have in your account, enabling you to purchase more shares / contracts etc. than you would otherwise be able to do with your own funds alone. However, there is no obligation to use the margin facility if you don’t want to although it will be impossible to trade some markets without it – most notably Forex. This type of account is favoured by the majority of traders.
Market makers are individuals or financial institutions who literally ‘make a market’ by maintaining a bid and ask price in a given instrument by always being available to buy or sell at publicly quoted prices. The role of the market maker is to maintain liquidity within an instrument, typically by buying when there is an abundance of sell orders, and selling when there is an abundance of buy orders.
Unlike the discretionary trader, this type of trader produces computer code to make some or all of the decisions about when and where to enter and exit trades. The main benefit is the objectivity of a computer, while drawbacks are a lack of flexibility.
The Italian market of leading shares.
For more information on the MIB, click here.
The third of the most commonly traded indices in the US. Also known as the Nas, and known by futures traders as NQ.
For more information on the NASDAQ, click here.
The Japanese stock index.
For more information on the Nikkei, click here.
The offer price (also referred to as the 'Ask' price) is the price at which one can purchase a given size of an instrument at any moment. It is nearly always greater than the Bid price.
All brokers offer some kind of simulated trading, using ‘paper’ in order to test the effectiveness of a trading strategy before switching to a live account and trading with real money.
A chart pattern that is similar to a flag and is sometimes referred to as a hinge which normally suggests continuation of a trend.
A level at which previous support or resistance is broken which results in price breaking out to higher levels or breaking down to lower ones. Particular emphasis is placed on the previous day’s price high, low and close.
Proprietary ('prop') trading
This involves a bank, brokerage or prop’ ‘house’ trading their own accounts speculatively, as opposed to trading those of their clients. Prop’ traders benefit from the best hardware, software and more favorable commission structures. Typically, such traders will have a share in any profits they make.
A pullback is an area of consolidation within an established trend. It’s where price makes a temporary retreat from the highs (in an uptrend) and catches its breath before continuing on its merry way. (Also see ‘Flag’ and ‘Pennant’, above.)
The price level at which sellers are expected to enter the market in sufficient numbers to take control from buyers. When price makes a new high and then retreats, sellers who missed the previous peak will be inclined to sell when price returns to that level. Afraid of missing out a second time, they may enter the market in numbers sufficient to overwhelm buyers. The resulting correction will reinforce market perceptions that price is unlikely to move higher and establish a ‘resistance’ level.
Another common abbreviation, this time for the Standard & Poors 500 Stock Index. Also known by some as "Spoos" or "Spooz", and by e-mini futures traders as ES.
For more information on the S&P, click here.
Spread Betting (SB)
A form of trading where you bet on £ per point moves, outlined above.
Scalpers tend to make numerous, perhaps hundreds of trades a day, accruing a number of small profits into a respectable daily total. Losses per trade tend to be minimal, from ‘scratch’ (i.e. break even) to a few ticks at most. A scalp trade would certainly never be held overnight.
Traders who believe an instrument is likely to fall in value open a trade by selling it ‘short’ in the expectation of buying it back (known as short 'covering') at a lower price. With equities, traders are able to sell shares they don’t own by borrowing them from their broker.
The number of units (shares, contracts, etc.) immediately available to buy (bid) or sell (ask).
The spread on an instrument is the difference between the price you buy at known as the ‘offer’ and the price that you sell at known as the ‘bid’.
A price of an instrument where a trader with an open position in that instrument would accept that s/he was wrong and/or does not wish to risk further losses and wants to exit the open trade at a loss.
A level at which buyers are expected to enter the market in sufficient numbers to take control from sellers. The market has a memory. When price falls to a new low and then rallies, buyers who missed out on the first trough will be inclined to buy if price returns to that level. Afraid of missing out for a second time, they may enter the market in sufficient numbers to take control from sellers. The result is a rally, reinforcing perceptions that price is unlikely to fall further and creating a ‘support’ level.
The SIX Swiss Exchange (formerly the SWX Swiss Exchange) is the principal stock exchange in Switzerland.
For more information on the SWX, click here.
Tick / Tic / Pip
A tick is usually the smallest increment that a price can rise or fall, typically 1p on UK stocks like CKSN and BARC. In the US it is usually one cent. However, for stocks which are only pennies each, the increments are in fractions of a penny, so the price will go from 1.9p to 2.0p to 2.1p etc. On some it can be 1.90 to 1.95 to 2.00 etc. An intraday move of one cent in the forex market is huge, so price is broken down into tiny fractions known as ‘pips’. The size of a ‘pip’ will vary from one currency to the next. The same principle applies to the futures markets. For example, on the e-mini S&P futures, it is 0.25 point, on mini Dow it is 1.0 point.
Traders who use TA as the basis of their trading strategy tend to use the same timeframe, or combinations of different timeframes. Day traders tend to use fast timeframes such as 1 minute or 5 minutes, whereas swing traders tend towards longer timeframes, such as one day or one week.
Your broker will usually provide you with a trading platform which is essentially the software that allows you to execute your trades. Trading platforms are a bit like cars in that traders will like one and hate another. It’s essential that you find one that you like and has the features you require.
The most common piece of trading advice is to ‘trade with the trend’. A trend occurs when there is momentum that propels an instrument up (in an uptrend) drawing in more and more buyers, while selling pressure is limited. Identifying when they start, when to join the trend and when to get off it before it ends is the tricky bit!
This is a line drawn on a price chart underneath a succession of higher lows in an uptrend or on top of a succession of lower highs in a downtrend. The precise point at which a trendline is drawn will vary from one trader to the next.
At the start of a race, athletes hear the words ‘get set’ and ‘ready’, followed by the starting pistol. Similarly, traders ‘get set’ by filtering prospective trades and then looking to see if their ‘set up’ materialises. Finally, there is a trigger to enter the trade. This is often as simple as the breach of a previous price high or low.
A measurement of how many trades are executed during a specific period of time. Volume can be useful for determining potential turning points within the market, and also for indicating if price action may continue in the same direction.
Editors’ Note on Chart Patterns and Indicators
Please be aware that no chart pattern or indicator is guaranteed to perform in either one way or another, as they depend on a variety of circumstances which can change at any moment. Hence, none of the patterns or indicators mentioned above should be considered as totally reliable. The information provided here is for educative purposes only and is not offered as advice to trade using one particular style, method or indicator in preference to another.
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